Inspiring Youth Through Sailing

Inspiring Youth Through Sailing

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Russell Coutts

Sir Russell Coutts, chief executive officer of the America’s Cup, and the most successful sailor in America’s Cup history, has a personal passion for the AC Endeavour Programme. Here he tells why in The Royal Gazette:

Sailing has always been a very important part of my life and my inspiration for many years. Sailing has the power to inspire, to educate and motivate kids in a very powerful way and introducing youth to sailing in a place like Bermuda is a project that I personally thought was an incredible opportunity, one we could not miss.

The AC Endeavour Programme was born in October 2015 in Bermuda as an initiative to create an America’s Cup youth education and sailing programme, with a specific focus on leaving a lasting, positive legacy in Bermuda, home of the 35th America’s Cup in 2017.

The core of the AC Endeavour Programme is the STEAM curriculum, using sailing as a backdrop to help bring to life core learning’s in subjects such as science, technology, engineering, art and maths, providing education in a unique, engaging way.

Basically the AC Endeavour Programme teaches young people in a way that makes learning fun and exciting.

In many ways sailing is an ideal sport to explore each of these subjects and learn the basic principles of physics, geometry, and maths very naturally. Sailing a boat efficiently requires both physical and intellectual responses — concepts such as buoyancy, the geometry of sailing and the fact that you can only sail at certain angles to the wind — all of these are core parts of sailing and great ways of learning those skills.

In addition, AC Endeavour has a strong environmental element. It teaches the impact of marine debris, the problems of plastics in the ocean and how plastics get into the food chain, and it does all that with these young students looking through the lens of environmental responsibility via very cool America’s Cup images and technology.

It isn’t just the educational elements of the AC Endeavour Programme that I am excited about, it is also many intangible lessons that can be learnt through sailing.

Teamwork is a core element of sailing and the AC Endeavour students learn about that and leadership, they see the value of good communication skills and perhaps most powerful of all, how they learn to integrate with each other and discover things for themselves. That is a fantastic thing to see in practice and in my opinion, utterly invaluable.

Since we started we’ve had more than 1,200 kids between the ages of nine and 12 go through one of the AC Endeavour Programmes here in Bermuda. The feedback we’ve had from parents and teachers is overwhelmingly positive, and it’s clear that we’re having a very good impact on the island’s young people, and making a positive change in their lives.

I do want to say that we could have not made this happen without our 15 corporate and marine industry partners, from whom we’ve had terrific support. Take the boats we use, for example. We have Hobie Waves, RS Feva’s, O’Pen Bics and Optimists and those boats are now a common sight on Bermuda’s waters, with their pink sails proudly echoing the amazing pink beaches of Bermuda.

I know for a fact that the young Bermudian sailors are very proud of those boats, but without the support of our partners, that would not be possible.

The focus for AC Endeavour is not racing, it’s education, but I should also mention that in 2017 we’ll also be running AC Endeavour junior regattas in our pink-sailed boats during the two weekends during the half-time break in the America’s Cup Finals. Young sailors will be coming from around the world to experience the incredible atmosphere of an America’s Cup Final and they will be competing in their own right on the same racecourse.

This is a huge opportunity to take part in what will be the biggest, best America’s Cup yet, and another important part of the AC Endeavour Programme.

Promoting education and life skills through sailing is something that’s important, not just for the health of our sport, but for the growth of our young people.

I firmly believe that sailing is a tremendous platform through which we can inspire and educate young people and encourage them to think about some things differently, and hopefully we provide kids with the pathway to become a professional America’s Cup sailor.

That is a long-term goal, but for now, I want to make sure that as many young people in Bermuda as possible have the chance to experience the AC Endeavour Programme. I know they will love it.